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Wisconsin joins suit against No Child Left Behind

Ohanian Comment: My wish is some entity would sue without even mentioning money.

By Todd Richmond
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin has joined a federal lawsuit challenging the No Child Left Behind Act, with the state's attorney general arguing the law dictates a variety of educational policies without providing money to carry them out.

Republican opponents of Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat, immediately accused her of filing a frivolous action to shore up liberal support for her re-election bid this year, but her office said she was only carrying out the duties of her job.

The lawsuit, filed by the National Education Association and school districts in Michigan, Vermont and Texas against U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, alleges the act imposes unfunded mandates on state and local governments.

A federal judge in Michigan dismissed the lawsuit in November, but the plaintiffs have mounted an appeal.

Lautenschlager filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit Friday, which means Wisconsin supports the plaintiffs. The states of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine and Oklahoma have filed similar briefs.

Lautenschlager said in a statement Tuesday the act dictates wide-ranging policies ranging from teacher qualifications to timing of student assessments, decisions Wisconsin school districts have traditionally made. But it doesn't provide local governments enough money to cover its requirements, she said.

In 2004, Lautenschlager issued a legal opinion saying the federal government can't force states to comply with the act. The opinion was the first in the country from a state attorney general on the act.

No Child Left Behind mandates that all school children be proficient in math and reading by 2014. It also requires districts to identify schools with weak reading and math test scores and eventually apply sanctions if the scores don't improve. Penalties range from implementing tutoring programs to letting students transfer to higher-scoring schools.

Lautenschlager's opponents - Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher and former U.S. attorney J.B. Van Hollen - attacked the brief as another example of a frivolous action Lautenschlager has launched.

They blasted her last month for filing a request with a federal judge to join a lawsuit demanding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration make the morning-after pill available without a prescription.

Bucher accused Lautenschlager of choosing to file frivolous actions to please her Democratic base going into election season rather than focusing on the spread of methamphetamine and guns in Milwaukee.

Van Hollen said Lautenschlager is trying to grab headlines with lawsuits that have nothing to do with her job.

Dan Bachhuber, a spokesman for Lautenschlager's campaign, said Bucher and Van Hollen don't realize the attorney general's job calls for protecting the public in many different ways.

"She's doing her job," he said.

Van Hollen and Bucher will square off in the GOP primary in September. Lautenschlager faces Falk, the Dane County executive, on the Democratic side. The winners advance to the November general election.

Melissa Mulliken, a spokeswoman for Falk's campaign, didn't immediately return messages from The Associated Press Tuesday evening.

A message the AP left at the U.S. Department of Education's public information office Tuesday evening also wasn't immediately returned.

— Todd Richmond, Associated Press


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